Coin Perdu

“In the shade of the walnut tree” featured in a magazine.

I wrote an article for LEEF, an Afrikaans magazine in SA, about our life here in France. Their February summer issue was devoted to all things French and I was asked to do a contribution. I called it “In the shade of the walnut tree”. This is our favorite spot in summer time where we enjoy our apéros and amuses bouches, long lazy lunches and philosophical discussions.

leef 10001-001So…for the Afrikaans readers out there; the February issue of LEEF magazine is still available on the shelves. For my English and other readers I will soon translate the article into English and post it here.

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In the meantime, here in the French countryside we are enveloped in the blankets of winter with misty days, rain, and cloudy skies.  It makes for an ambiance filled season and we all enjoy gathering in the bistros around cups of coffee or chocolat chauds. Those more daring go for a glass of Ricard. We talk about the cold and the rain congested soil and what we’re having for dinner. Nestled in the misty hills, the chimneys have trails of smoke. The kitchens smell of les potages, soupes et veloutés and long sauce bourguignons.  Our animals are safely sheltered in the stables while the fields are left bare  for regrowth. We are cocooning.

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Correze country side

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à la prochaine fois!

Ronelle


Beginning of a new chapter.

These past 3 weeks were spent entirely on packing up our Loire home. We wrapped and packed, and stored and transported furniture, cartons. We sorted, threw away, gave away and tried to keep only what we really love and need. It felt great to lighten the load, both in terms of material stuff and mind stuff. Never do I want to own so much stuff again. Since living here in the barn at Coin Perdu with the bare necessities, I have come to realize with how little we can actually be comfortable. I think in this modern age we live with far too much unnecessary “stuff”.

When we locked the door behind us of our Loire home to get into the truck with the last few things on its way to coin Perdu, I took a walk through my garden. I absolutely loved my little “jardin de curé”. I worked so hard in that garden, changing it every so often and I loved every minute of it. I am posting a few images…I have so many, not possible to show them all and of course they will have much more meaning for me, but I hope you can see a little of the joy I’ve experienced in my Loire garden.

…a typical “Tourangelle maison” on the banks of the Loire river.”

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…for my first birthday in our Loire house 12 years ago, mon chéri gave me a “garguile” from the chateau de Chauvigny, which we converted into a fountain..  garden 2008 1520x1884

..I adored the Loire house’s windows. I couldn’t wait for summers to keep them open morning noon and night..

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We only closed the “volets” at night when sleeping..sometimes…

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..and flowerpots on the windowsills…what else!..

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..the “garguile” peeked through white climbing iceberg roses, close by “un olivier” in a pot..

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..on the terrace – urn planted with boxwood..

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..the “jardin de curé” was filled with everything I loved..and still love. Originally I tried to stick to white and blue, but as always, what we plan what eventually realizes aren’t the same…most of the time it turns out better..

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..corners are a favorite of mine..whether in the gardne, the house, the fields…

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..I adored my atelier! I will definitely miss it. It was the old stables of the hopuse which mon chéri turned ito the atelier for me, complete with fireplace, keeeping the old beams and features of the stables intact..To the left of the collage down below, is my galery, which was one of the old caves we turned into my galery.

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..during summers, we pragmatically lived outside in the garden..

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I hope you enjoyed this trip through the garden during 12 years of living in our Loire home. . I hope you’ll join me in writing our new chapter here at Coin Perdu.

I will soon start posting recipes again, as soon as I can get some order in the chaos here . Bear with me..!

I wish you all a great 2014!

à bientôt

Ronelle


Walnut tart …and a marché aux plantes(plant market) at Curemonte.

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I decided to make a walnut tart, even though it is actually an autumn dish which we make when our walnuts are harvested after summer. But here, we eat it throughout the year, because we love it. Tout simple. That’s it.

Coming home from the marché aux plantes in Curemonte last week, with my confiture de noix and my chutneys and oils and vinegars and dandelion syrup under my arm, I thought it would be appropriate to make a walnut tart to accompany this reportage on the plant day at Curemonte. I’ve never made a walnut tart myself and it is only recently that I started eating it. I never thought it could be something special, until that one day that I took a slice at a friend’s house. It was delicious and it still is. It tastes like autumn. It is a rather heavy tart (which makes sense for fall and winter comfort), so I make it in a small tart tin, to have small slices…a good idea in any case for all tarts and cakes and goodies!

Our walnut trees are always late off the mark. They start off late in spring with these nice “flowers”, which are then rapidly followed by the leaves. With 4 huge trees, we always have a large supply of walnuts, perfect for Noël.

..tarte aux noix (walnut tart)..

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La recette:

*Pastry base: Recipe here.   Bake the pastry shell blind( without filling, but filled with dry baking beans to weigh down the pastry). Bake at 200 ° C for about 10 minutes. Remove the beans.

*Walnut filling:

  1. Crush 200 g walnuts, but not completely into powder. Keep some whole for decoration.
  2. Whisk 2 eggs and 70 g brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add 1 tsp vanilla essence, 50 ml TBSP strong black coffee, 2 TBSP flour and 150 créme fraîche ( or thick cream). Mix gently together.
  4. Pour into the baked pastry shell and bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with skewer and the tart is done when the skewer is removed clean when piercing the tart.
  5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1 TBSP of walnut liqueur.
  6. Leave to cool, decorate with dusted icing sugar and some whole walnuts and serve with some créme fraîche or whipped cream.

Serves 6 people

Une pincée de sel:

  • The brown sugar and coffee gives a nice dark colour to the filling; but the coffee can be omitted if desired.
  • For a winter tart, try adding some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or cacao instead of coffee.
  • Pecan nuts can be used instead.
  • Keep the portions small as it is a rich and heavy tart.
  • Make extra pasty for the base and keep in the freezer for another tart.

…defrosting the pastry for the base..

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...spring walnut branches..

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Marché aux plantes à Curemonte

Curemonte is a quaint little village, 10 minutes drive from us. This past week saw the annual marché aux plantes (plant market) at Curemonte, an occasion I look forward to every year. Not only do they have plants, but also food, artwork  and some bric a brac..a vide grenier. Everything sold and presented, is local. The bread is made locally, the beer is from the local brasserie, the plants and vegetables are local, the bees and honey, the walnut delicacies and walnut tarts are made locally , the wine is local and the vide grenier and brocante are from les Curemontais themselves.

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I love the country side, whether it is a French one or an American one or and English one. I prefer the ambiance and laid back ambiance of les campagnards, country folk..of which I am one of course. Strolling the small streets, peeking around each corner, stroking the dilapidated doors and windows, enjoying the laisser faire gardens( gardens just seem to happen by themselves, relaxed..). the world just comes to a standstill in the countryside where chatting to your neighbour is still a pleasure, almost an obligation and something that can even happen on the road, simply expecting traffic behind to wait..everybody waits. Beauty is all around you, simple, nothing is ostentatious. Glamor has no place in the countryside. Nature isn’t glamorous. It is simple. Honest. sometimes hard and challenging. Always beautiful. I thus hope I pass a bit of the beauty of Curemonte and its marché aux plantes on to you by these images.

curemonte collage 4 5120x4096..and plenty of food for hungry visitors; 8 euros for a plateau repas, which consisted of a glass of rosé wine, rillettes with bread for a starter, steak frites and cheese to finish..so simple, but so delicious in the atmosphere of camaraderie with people joining in at the long tables..

curemonte collage 2 5120x3544…a plate or a table, a bowl or a tea towel..just browse..

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..I found my bonheur(happiness)..

bol 1 4419x3076..and a lot of strolling

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..fascination comes in the form of dilapidated doors and shutters, railings, gates-my fettish..

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..à l’année prochaine..salut!(until next year, cheerio!)

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I hope you enjoyed this day with me in the French country side! I of course loved every minute of it and I relived it all by sharing it here with you.

until very soon( à trés bientôt!)

Ronelle

Ron


“Un bon séjour” in Paris and a tennis elbow..

I spent a wonderful few days in Paris, staying with our children, dining with mon cheri at Atelier Maitre Albert for Valentines day and meeting up with a friend for a day’s browsing and lunching.

Paris Fevrier

Unfortunately I am presently struck down with an excruciating painful tennis elbow..can’t lift a glass, can’t brush my teeth, can’t sketch, can’t cook, can’t paint,  changing the gears when driving is a huge challenge, working on the computer is impossible.. the slightest twist of my wrist shoots up an incredible pain into my arm… I have to depend on my other clumsy arm to help with my daily tasks, which loads quite a bit of stress on that arm too. I do get this tennis elbow from time to time and the only real solution is..REST. So I am taking a few weeks break, especially from the computer, to rest my arm.

Keep an eye out though, because when I get back, it will be in full spring swing..with some posts on my growing garden with my new olive trees, my masses of lavenders and santolines, the planting of the potager, the plans for my “serre” (greenhouse), the new staircases built from stone in the garden, the olive terrace and barbeque terrace, the kitchen terrace and the walnut terrace. I will also show the beauty of our region exploding with spring fever. I will take up my plein air painting again, work on some shows hopefully and I will share some new recipes, where I focus more on recipes from the south of France, which is after all, my favorite foods.

Even though I enjoy a trip to Paris, I have to admit that the campagne and especially the campagne du sud  stays my ultimate favorite place, which is why I adore our little forgotten corner here in the south west, Coin Perdu. For that reason, mon cheri is taking me to Provence in  June and to Toscane for August, so I can touch up on my Mediterranean garden and cooking skills.  Any suggestions for these two upcoming trips????

So you see..a busy, busy spring is awaiting me..tune in in a few weeks to roller coaster along!

But first..PARIS..

To quote Edith Piaf in her song, Les amants de Paris

….A Paris, les amants s’aiment à leur façon.
Donnez-moi des chansons
Pour qu’on s’aime à Paris…

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 …la musee Jacquemart-Andre..

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..l’interieur: Le jardin d’hiver, la chambre de Madame, le salon..

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…la femme q’u a l’sac..

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I also went to see the 9 new cloches awaiting to be hung, each named after a saint. It made me a little sad to see thse new onesI couldn’t help but think of victor Hugo’s Quasimodo; what would he think of the new bells? Emmanuel was the big bourdon, which was originally Jacqueline, but renamed  Emmanuel by Louis XIV..I suppose it was quasimodo’s favorite bell..and now the big bourdon is called Marie(bottom right). the other bells are named Marcel, Etienne, Gabriel, Jean-Marie, Maurice, Denis,Anne-Geneviéve

collage les cloches

I always play a game when I go to Paris…I don’t feel truly at home before having said salut to the Eiffel and I can’t leave without saying à la prochaine fois!

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and so to all my virtual friends here, I also say for the time being

..a la prochaine fois, très bientôt!

Ronelle


Velouté de butternut..and footprints in the snow.

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“Un rideau de flocons blancs ininterrompu miroitait sans cesse en descendant vers la terre; il effaçait les formes, poudrait les choses d’une mousse de glace; et l’on n’entendait plus, dans le grand silence de la ville calme et ensevelie sous l’hiver, que ce froissement vague, innommable et flottant de la neige qui tombe, plutôt sensation que bruit , entremêlement d’atomes légers qui semblaient emplir l’espace, couvrir le monde.” Guy de Maupassant, boule de suif.

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“It was early autumn, then, before the snow began to fly. –(There’s an expression for you, born in the country, born from the imaginations of men and their feeling for the right word, the only word, to mirror clearly what they see! Those with few words must know how to use them.) Men who have seen it, who have watched it day by day outside their cabin window coming down from the sky, like the visible remorse of an aging year; who have watched it bead upon the ears of the horses they rode, muffle the sound of hoofs on the trail, lie upon spruce boughs and over grass – cover, as if forever, the landscape in which they moved, round off the mountains, blanket the ice in the rivers – for them the snow flies. The snow doesn’t fall. It may ride the wind. It may descend slowly, in utter quiet, from the grey and laden clouds, so that you can hear the flakes touching lightly on the wide white waste, as they come to rest at the end of their flight. Flight – that’s the word. They beat in the air like wings, as if reluctant ever to touch the ground. I have observed them coming down, on a very cold day, near its end when the sky above me was still blue, in flakes great and wide as the palm of my hand. They were like immense moths winging down in the twilight, making the silence about me visible.” – Howard O’Hagan Tay John

…Voilà coin Perdu in January! Quiet and silent behind its curtain of white…

neige 2013-023..Our barn, where we are living until the house is finished..

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..A view on the bench, where I dream and plan, except in winter. Then I dream and plan by the fire..

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..Forgotten socks …

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..and terracotta pots waiting to be cleaned..

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..Two adorable faces, waiting for fresh hay..

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..The Eiffle tower, a bit askew in the potager..

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..Old barrel rims, waiting to become arches in the potager..

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..The wine bottle rack, serving some different purpose every so often..

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..The road to la toilette requires snow boots..

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..”La toilette” in snow attire..

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..Velouté de butternut..

velouté de butternut 1Recipe:

  1. Clean and chop and onion and fry in some olive oil.
  2. Add some cleaned Butternut, cut into chunks.
  3. Cover with vegetable or chicken stock until vegetables are completely covered. simmer until very tender.
  4. Mix to a puree and put back on gentle heat.
  5. Add coconut milk to the soup according to your preference.. Season and leave to simmer gently on low heat for about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the juice of 1 orange, season with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve warm with freshly grated nutmeg and crusty bread.

So, on this quiet, hushed snow note, I leave you..

à bientôt!

Ronelle


Red cabbage with plums and beetroot..and Beaujolais wines amidst hues of red.

I initially thought I would post a recipe for “du vin chaud” (mulkled wine), to celebrate the last of my fall colour posts. But then I “fell” upon this recipe..red cabbage..beetroot…apples…pork fillet..and it won me over. So here I give you the  voluptuous, dark reds of beetroot and purple cooked cabbage, lazy late-fall plums instead of apples and a juicy, tender pork fillet.

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

  • I used late season red plums, but use apples if you prefer.
  • Use cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar if you use apples.
  • Add a handful of dry  Gobi berries.
  • Avoid cooking the cabbage to death… remove from the heat when it still has a bite, because it continues cooking, reaching the perfect stage while standing a bit.
  • Also good with veal.
  • If you are vegetarian,  the pork can be replaced by large roasted or stuffed mushrooms, or fish fillets.
  • Can also accompany a frittata or boiled eggs.

Recipe adapted from “Filet mignon de porc, chou poêlé; des recettes pour reçevoir; le grand livre Hachette.”

Yesterday was  Beaujolais Thursday, the day when new Beaujolais and le vin primeur of the season are sold worldwide.  It is tradition in our house to have a meal somewhere with a glass of Beaujolais. It is a day I always look forward to and this year was no different. It is also the last post of my autumn color inspiration and I can’t think of a better way to end it than to toast the wine reds of nature with a young Beaujolais 2012..

..Tchin tchin..!

And so, with a touch of sadness  I say good bye to the splendour of fall. It is time to move on.

à trés bientôt!

Ronelle


Goat’s cheese and caramelized apple salad.. and ochre abundance.

Once again, I had to scratch my head to think of a recipe that would accompany the stunning ochre colours of fall. Of course not only in colour, but also in taste, spirit, ambiance..Of course..cheese. I can’t believe I haven’t shared this simple salad yet. It can be  manipulated and changed according to the seasons and is always a winner with its warm toast, cheese and apple and fresh green salad.

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Place the apple rounds and goat’s cheese on toasted bread before putting under the grill.
  • Take care to slice your apples, bread for toast and cheese more or less the same size.
  • Use slices of Camembert instead of goat’s cheese.
  • Use pears or quince instead of apples.
  • Use brown sugar to caramelize the pears or quince instead of honey and serve with a helping of quince jam/jelly.
  • Play around and make your own combinations to serve a melted cheese and apple/pear/quince salad.

..stillife  nicked by a chicken..

..stillife with Royal Gala apples..

..walnut oil, walnut vinegar, raspberry vinegar, truffle vinegar..

Our fall colors have only now really reached their peak and the ochres are in abundance. I don’t have much to say, except that nature is at the moment an explosion of magnificence..

à la prochaine!

Ronelle


Papillons d’ete(summer butterflies) and a wedding.

I have been like these butterflies the last few weeks…fluttering left, right and center! Our eldest daughter’s wedding is a week from today and I’m in top gear, working to get everything done. Truth be told, up until now most of the organizing had been done by the two themselves. My work only really started these last few weeks and being true to my very bad self, I left everything until the very last minute, which now means a mean scuffling of  feet to be on top of things. But I’m almost there…on top of things!

..Inachis Io(Paon du jour) Peacock butterfly..


..Mellicta athalia..

Every now and then I get distracted by my animals or the garden…the flowers, the vegetables and my potager, a coffee…before finding my rhythm again to move along with wedding stuff. One such a pleasant distraction was the seductive butterflies in my summer garden.

.. le petit nacré (Issoria lathonia) ..

..Iphiclides podalirius – scarse swallowtail (le flambé)..

..la belle dame (Vanessa cardui)..

..(papillons satyrinae (satyre)..

..Colias alfacariensis (Fluoré)..

..papillon feuille..

A last sip of cool and calm Provencal Rosé at sunset with mon chéri before friend and family start arriving from tomorrow onfor the wedding. And so with these images of my summer butterflies here at Coin Perdu and two cold glasses of Rosé, I leave you until I resurface after the wedding!

..à bientôt..

Ronelle


Frittata à la “Mon Chéri”..and a late summer “potager” (veggie garden).

Sunday was a real “Dimanche à la campagne” at Coin Perdu. Our children from Toulouse  visited the weekend, the sun was shining, we stopped working on our house for the day and we had a great brunch outside under the Tilleul tree. What made it really perfect was that Mon Chéri made lunch! I just sat in the shade, sipped my Rosè and enjoyed the company of the people I love. This frittata/tortilla/ omelette is the brainchild of Mon Chéri and it changes every time he makes it which course is typical of a frittata…you use whatever is available and to your liking!

..frittata/tortilla/omelette on the barbecue..

..the assistant earns her lunch..

..la recette..

Une petite pensée:

  • Make a frittata to empty the fridge at the end of a month.
  • Normally a frittata is done on the stove and placed under a grill for a few minutes before serving. I is firm enough to cut into slices.
  • If you want it creamier, add a TBSP of crème fraîche just after you’ve added the eggs and stir .
  • Always add a sprinkling of freshly cut herbs before serving for a fresh appeal.
  • Place your frittata under the grill for a few minutes to have it puff up, melt the cheese if added and brown nicely.
  • To make it vegetarian, omit the left over meat.
  • Be creative with your frittata.
  • Serve with fresh green salad, toast or country bread and fruit.

..dèjeuner à la campagne..

Our potager here at Coin Perdu is a bit empty at the moment. (You can see a little of the evolution of the potager the last 2 years on my Coin Perdu-blog: Moving forward and A garden in the making.)

But back to the moment: ..the strawberries try desperately to produce one last crop… I sure did something wrong, because my garlic went to seed and is even smaller than when I planted them!… I lost all my newly planted carrots by simple neglect unfortunately (I didn’t water them…too lazy?)…my basil dried up too, but I still have some new leaves pushing, so I’m not completely hopeless!…My onions are all dug up…my young leeks look a bit frail…

..an empty late summer potager..

But on the other hand…my maize (corn) looks beautiful, although few…my pumpkin is coming along beautifully and already have little pumpkins all over…I am in love with all my grey foliaged herbs like the Absinthe(Artemisia absinthium), the santolinas, the grey potent curry plants..

..absinthe, french marigolds, tomatoes, maize, pumpkin herbs..

My artichokes are late, but I’m happy, even though I have only one plant carrying buds…next year I will have plenty of artichokes..enough to leave for flowering and enough for eating!…

..artichokes..

One thing I don’t fail at, is growing beets…deliciously sweet, small and big, the young leaves delicious in salads. We have feasted this season on fresh beets and I’ve just planted some more and I’m already picking the leaves for colour in my salads – of course beets are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, but I pretend they are very difficult and I’m just soo good!…

..young beetroot peeping through the lavender..

A lovely green view on my potager..I have to add that this photo was taken just after some hard work, like weeding and digging-in horse manure(with the help of sweet Mon chéri of course) and pruning and all the labour a potager asks for…but still… quite pretty with the bright tansy and gay French marigolfds, the cloches and yellow pots, tomato forest… heh?…

..bright yellows for a potager..

Now just look at my maize (admitting again in a whisper that Mon Chéri sees to it being watered…?). In France maize is not eaten “corn on the cob” wise. On the contrary, it is seen as animal food and frowned upon as human food..but once they try it our way..on the BBQ.. with butter and fleur de sel..they are converted!…

..maize(corn on the cob)..

Of course I have camomile, as everubody does…how can one not have Camomile…such an easy growing, abundant and gratifying herb! Don’t trust the marker…nothing is what it seems here at Coin Perdu…

rosemary…oops non, camomile..

Aha…the tomatoes – last year I was conscientious and my tomatoes were properly staked and all the necessary pinching and mulching were religiously done and they were beautiful! This year, it is more of a tomato war with cherries and grapes and rondes and ovals fighting for air and power and it is an ordeal to harvest, but when we succeed, we have nice sweet abundant crops; I’ll be perfect again next year!…

..tomatoes..

As said…I love the santolinas…the greens and the greys…mixed with lavender, I can dwell there for hours. Hopefully I’ll have a whole field of mixed santolinas and lavenders next year – it all comes down to efficient planning?…

..beautiful santolina..

The visitors are bountiful and it rewards the hard work of gardening without pesticides! This young lady goes by the pretty name of le Nacré de la ronce(Brenthis daphné)…

..Nacre de la ronce..

Without planning it, my potager developed and grew towards the yellows. And I love it! Yellows, oranges, greens, whites and grey. Beautiful. But only in my garden. and only in the potager. The rest stays all white. And definitely not on my body! Look at these cheeky marigolds, bursting with energy!… and they get picked when they start to wilt, the petals are dried and used in salads..Nothing goes to waste .

..French marigolds..

Salads. A potager isn’t a potager without its salads. A leaf here and a leaf there, a handful f tomatoes, a basil leaf, a beetroot leaf … voilà, a salad for lunch….

salads (feuille de chène)

I’m one of those crazy gardeners… I am greedy, I plant too much, I plant too close together, I sow too many seeds… And so I planted far too many courgettes for our household and we ended up having these giants…pretty to look at,  not as tasty as the young sweet courgettes though. But I always reason that life must be pretty too, not only practical and sensible, and that same reasoning goes for a potager…pretty has its place too in a potager. So here they are, my pretty giants!…

..pretty giants..

I hope you enjoyed walking with me through my potager at the end of the summer…almost.

A potager is hard work…all that weeding, the watering, the planting and seeding, the harsh summer sun, fighting the slugs and the deer, the rabbits and snails……it IS  hard work and I am fa..aar from being the most effective gardener. Around us, everything grows and wanders like it wishes(animals included, people included) and when the worms devour my artichokes, I break into an instant fit and man and animal flees, but then calm down and casually start over again. We pretty much believe in laisser faire, so you will never see perfection around here, but I believe that it is a stress free way of gardening. What is a few weeds after all? And insects do more good than harm, and if the snails feed on your salads, just plant a few more.. or plant some sorrel to keep them away from your salad(snails adore sorrel)..or cover the soil with broken eggshells, or ash from the barbecue…live and let live..

OK. I have to shower and clean my nails and go find my gloves, which stayed behind somewhere in the potager…

Happy gardening!

Ronelle


Earth day 2012 on Myfrenchkitchen

Today, 22 April 2012 is Earth day.I would like to add my small contribution to help make the world conscious of the wonder of this planet we are privileged to inhabit. We have only one lifetime we  to  enjoy it and at the same time secure and preserve it for the future.

If we can teach our children from a young age to see nature from close-up, we will see a beauty deeper than just  by scanning the surface: Taking walks in nature, having closer looks at what lies beneath a leaf or a branch, having them plant their own bean in a saucer lined with cotton wool, giving them their own corner in a garden to plant annuals, teaching them the benefits of insects and other crawling critters we normally flee from, having books on our shelves about nature, riding bicycle with them rather than transporting them to ballet in a car, teaching them the precious value of water, lie on our backs with them and discovering the stars, smelling wet earth, freshly cut grass…so much that we can learn from nature just by being present, so much nature can teach us when we pay attention…

…garden snail…

..argiope  brunechii female..

..Arion rufus(red slug)..

..Forest shield bug on Scottish thistle..

..wild flowers in correze…

..Bufo bufo, common toad..

..Mellicta Athalia, butterfly..

..Lacerta agilis, common lizard..

…wild birds..

..water canal at Le Pescher..

..Birds of the Loire..

..La Loire in July..

Read about earth day 2012 here.

à bientôt

Ronelle


Joyeuses Paques from Coin Perdu!

Joyeuses Paques, happy Easter, gesëende Pase, buona Pasqua, felices Pascuas…!!!

..à bientôt..

Ronelle


Les oeufs Mimosa(deviled eggs) for an Easter brunch.

Easter weekend is around our tables.. Families are preparing for visitors, or are preparing to hit the road to family.. We’re doing neither, but we prepare for an Easter brunch le Lundi de Pacques, just the two of us, mon chéri et moi. I have sent a sweet message Upstairs asking for a sunny day, so we can enjoy our lunch outside . But if I don’t get my wish, we will still have our brunch, albeit in the barn. Just as perfect.

Instead of showing Easter chocolate and with our two little hens being so prolific in their egg producing, I decided to do some deviled eggs, or as we call them here in France, Les oeufs Mimosa, reminding of the mimosa flowers which are of the first signs of spring here and it happens all around Easter. I had to do a search about why it is called deviled eggs…

According to Wikipedia it originated in ancient Rome…go figure. Apparently “deviled” referred to the spicy nature of the food.  The deviled egg gourmet has a description of the origin of the term deviled which you can read for some more info. I prefer to call them eggs Mimosa, like we do here in France. We push the hard boiled egg yolk through a fine sieve, having it look like the Mimosa flowers of early spring, which we sprinkle over the filled egg halves, so it looks like we have sprinkled some Mimosa petals over our egg halves. It is a little bit of old French cooking  but still sort of romantic, don’t you think? I revisited the “egg halve” -presentation, serving it with a salad of green vegetable brunoise.

So, without any further ado, I present some Easter Oeufs Mimosa revisités to you!

Suggestions:

  • If you have a rectangle inox shape, it works easy to shape it in the rectangle, I don’t have rectangle ones, but I do plan on getting, they work fantastic!
  • The Mimosa eggs can also be served in “petites verrines“, small glasses. Start off with toasted croutons at the bottom, follow with egg white, then the egg yolk cream en finish by decorating with the “mimosa”( the fine grated egg yolk).
  • OR make an egg sandwich , adding some of the salad to the filling too.
  • OR serve the egg whites and egg yolk cream and salad in small bowls, with toasted bread rounds separately for an aperitif i summer outside by the pool and each one serves himself/herself a small piece of toast with a scoop of whatever he/she feels like  topping up with.

Serves 4 people for starter

..large geese eggs, ordinary chicken eggs and small eggs from my little bantam hens…

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A spring brunch and geese and chicken chronicles.

I’d like you to meet our two new feathered children…Sidonie et Aglaé. They are named after a 70′s French television show, called Sidonie et Aglaé.

They showed up last Sunday and after a week of discovering the farm, they already have their favorite spots and they continue roaming about, following me or the chickens or the cats. They love company and I , of course, love their company too!!

Sidonie et Aglaé

Since I am still in the process of constructing our little lake for the geese and the ducks and the peacocks and….and…, they have to make do with two large bowls for some swimming. Do they complain? On the contrary, looking at the photos below, they are having a ball! Wouldn’t life be wonderful if we all could be happy with so little…?

Camembert, Mimolette et Ciboulette are not disturbed by the newcomers. They do their thing tranquilement, happy as always – the amount of tiny eggs I have at the end of a week, is proof enough! I used their eggs to make some oeufs Mimosas for Easter, to be seen at Myfrenchkitchen, Les oeufs Mimosa, for an Easter brunch.

…Camembert..

…Ciboulette…

…Mimolette…

..and a very simple spring brunch last week with two good friends..

I am showing off my very simple but very wonderful day here…far too many photos of the same thing! But, it was such a glorious midday in early spring and we lingered lazily  under the still-leafless walnut and tilleul trees. I can’t stop reveling in the colors of the spring sky and the sun and the greens of the fields, the color of the air…everything…spring gives me such a kick!

Today is Vendredi  saint, which means for the roman Catholics that it is the Friday of fasting just before Pacques, of spiritual day of rest, peace, restrain from eating and alcohol and just quiet reflection. Many places were closed today, depending on the prefecture of the region. the death of Christ on the cross is celebrated and even Christians are invited to join in this “chemin du croix“. Because we have many friends in the Catholic religion, we too will respect this tradition and we will spend a quiet evening, with salmon, some salad and water and reflection.

 I wish you a wonderful Easter weekend !

à bientôt

Ronelle


Grandmothers’ day, Hawaii and a bistrot spirit.

Today is Grandmothers’ day here in France. everywhere “les Mamies” were taken out to lunches, flower shops were open(normally closed on Sundays) and husbands and children walked around with small bouquets for their sweet “Mamie” I wish I had a “Mamie” who I could spoil today, but the best I could do, was join in the fun at out Cecile’s bar, “le café du Centre” in Beaulieu sur Dordogne, where everybody gathered in happy spirit for coffee and croissants!

..Cecile..

Of course that is something just up my alley, for I adore my coffee and I adore my croissant. I’m not a very routine and organized focused person, but not a day goes by that I don’t routinely start my day with my  black “café allongé, un verre d’eau, un croissant and the day’s journal, La Montagne.

..my habitual café et croissant..

And so…right there, this morning, next to mon Chéri, among our cafés and croissant crumbs, camera, lenses and writing carnets and laughter of Cecile’s clients, the idea was born for a new blog. I am up for change!

..le café du centre..

So maybe I will move over from Myfrenchkitchen to Café & croissant, which will just be about everything I encounter in my everyday life…I suppose not much different from what I’ve done on Myfrenchkitchen. and of course food is included….man can’t live on croissants alone! I am considering having only the one blog…for my art, for our coin Perdu and its country life and restoration and all things that I find brings sense to this challenging life we live. But maybe I won’t move…I will of course lose many of my readers and will have to start all over and my URL will change which is always a complicated story for all involved. But where is a will, is a way. I need to move on to something new…some new juice! The future will lead me.

..Café & croissant..

I’m also leaving this week for a week or two in Hawaii with mon Chéri. All tech stuff will stay behind, except for my camera. I’m taking only my bathing suit, sketching tools and little black number…for all those dinners awaiting me! I want to switch off and indulge in nature the sun and surroundings, let my senses treat me every day. Can you tell I’m excited?

..early morning..

..sunset..

And to round off this post…I made a curry chicken tagine for dinner..

  • Chicken cut into portions, browned in olive oil and madras curry. Added potatoes cut in cubes, onions cut roughly, a handful of organic dried apricots, chopped preserved lemon, a tablspoon of wild flower honey and some homemade chicken stock from the freezer. Bring to the boil and slowly simmer until you have a thick sauce and tender vegetable and chicken.
  • Add some spices of your taste…I used cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper and crushed juniper berries.
  • Serve with couscous.
  • Bon appétit!!

aloha!

ronelle


A French country cemetery and no dessert because it burned!

I drive past Nonard’s cemetery almost every day. Never have I stopped and entered it. Never had the desire to. I never go to a funeral, so why would I want to go to a cemetry?  But today I stopped at Nonard’s cemetery and pushed open the wrought iron gate…..oh dear, do I see some frowns out there??

PS: I made a riz au lait to accompany this post, because I thought an old traditional dish like rice pudding would go well with the traditional cemetery and add a little bit of sweetness to an otherwise grim subject. But then my chickens were so cute today, the sun was so wonderful, the cats so playful  that I forgot about the rice inside on the stove and burnt it to oblivion! So…only cemetery and no pudding..

… three stones, one family…

Les cimetiéres in France are very different to those I grew up with…they are almost..pretty? I love a cross…not for religious reasons, just because, and in the French cimetiére there is no shortage of spectacular crosses. But let me not talk too much, I might just say inappropriate things, since I do sometimes have a wicked mind.

…through the open gate…

So, while walking through Nonard’s cimetiére , I heard all the stories being whispered around me…people who once were fathers and mothers, sons, grandchildren, sisters…If there is one place you can sit and be surrounded by stories, it is the cemetery. I thought of my own story, way back, when my father died  and I was a young and vulnerable teenager of fifteen.

…abandoned sites..

I can remember my mother’s black dress she wore for the funeral and for weeks after.  I remember her beautiful brooches she always wore with her dresses. A scarf. Black shoes. I always thought she looked very elegant in black with her black hair, dark eyes and olive skin. I have no idea what I wore. After that day, it became custom for my mother and I to visit the cemetery every Sunday afternoon with a bottle of water, a cloth and a bunch of flowers. Our sweet, sweet neighbour across the road always came by the morning with flowers she picked from her garden, knowing our ritual by heart.  On arrival, my mother walked around the stone, inspected it and and found  fault  here with the stone that chipped, and there with marble that moved…it is after all a thing that stands on ground that move? I think that was her way of just controlling her emotions. My task was always to empty  the dry flowers, fill the vase with  fresh ones, wipe the dust from the marble and then I  joined my mother, where she just stared at my father’s name. I stared too. In silence. We continued that ritual for years, every Sunday afternoon, until I left home to university.

..to my grandpa, to my mother, to my father, to our friend, to my cousin, with sorrow,..

…age old plaques, broken, worn, sad…

I  have no doubt that it is one of the reasons why I hate a Sunday and why I feel depressed for a whole Sunday, especially the afternoon. But I suppose there is no difference between Sunday rituals at the cemetery; flowers, a cloth, fresh water, staring. Wondering. And remembering. A cemetery has its stories.  Touching. All the same, yet so different.

…a private family…

…two families resting together – what would their story be?..

..and finally, to lift the dark veil a bit and to reveal the wicked side of my character – 2 statues I would love to have in my garden and 4 vases for my home!…

…and dare I bring in a little humor  with the abandoned stone reminding me of the Titanic (bottom left), and a Jesus about to fall out of his vase any minute(bottom right)? Of course I can! In the saddest moments lies the biggest humor…that is what keeps us going. In fact, there is very little difference between laughing and crying…?

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Pinch of salt:

 Inspiration: 2 star chef Jean Sulpice:  His restaurant, Oxalys is the highest in Europe, at 2 300 m above sea level where he serves food of the highest quality and ingenuity. What inspires me is his devotion to his passions: his work, his family and  his mountains. He watches the weather every day from his window high up in Val Thorens to see how his clientele will turn out. He rises every morning at dawn for his exercises in the mountains with his skies in winter and hiking in summer. He takes his son to preschool and serves lunch to the school:  healthy vegetable soups and delicious chocolate mousse, which leave the kiddies with broad chocolate covered smiles! A young man full of joie de vivre and a vivid passion for what he loves!

What inspiration!

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Rest in peace until next time

..from your wicked, Nonard cemetry intruder..


Crêpe à la semoule for Mardi Gras 2012.

Welcome to today, Mardi gras 2012!!

A little Mediterranean flavour to celebrate this feasty day…the last day on which we “fatten up” before we start our 40 day fast up to Pâcques. What else do we eat than crêpes…again?! Only, this time a bit different…made with semolina flour and yeast, it is left for an hour to rise before baking in a pan. The yeast may scare you off, but it is not at all difficult…no kneading involved, and while you wait on the raising of the yeast, you can clean up the kitchen. It is traditionally served with soft butter and warm honey in the Middle East….delicious I tell you!

…served with warm panfried clementines and honey and butter…

…served with soft butter and drizzled with warm honey…

  1. Add 4 tsp dry yeast to 125 ml lukewarm water. Add 3 TBS flour and leave aside in a warm place for about 15 minutes until the mixture begins to foam.
  2. Sift 250g flour, 250 fine semolina and a pinch of salt in a bowl and shape a hole in the middle of the flour.
  3. Beat 2 eggs with 125 ml lukewarm milk and add into the hole made in the flour. Add the foamed yeast mixture and another 350 ml lukewarm water. Work the flour gently from the outside towards the centre, mixing it with the yeast/milk mixture in the middle. Whisk briskly until the mixtrue is smooth with the consistency of thick cream. cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for and hour unil the mixture becomes foamy and doubles in volume.
  4. Wipe a pan with a little buttered or oiled paper and heat it up on the stove until hot. Drop a small ladle full of mixture into the center of the pan(about 3 TBSP).  Bake until the top is dry and makes small holes/bubbles. don’t turn over. Remove from the pan and keep warm on a plate  over hot water. Cover with a damp towel.
  5. Repeat until all the mixture is used up.
  6. Serve warm on a plate with warmed honey and soft butter OR some clementine slices, slightly caramelized in butter and honey.
  7. Serve warm.

Makes about 16 crêpes.

Suggestions:

  • Add  a drop of orange flower water to the crêpe mixture OR add it to the clementines.
  • Arrange the crêpes after baking each one in overlapping fashion rather that on top of each other.
  • Butter the pan between baking if you don’t use a non stick pan.

…eggs, semolina, flour, yeast and a scale..

..acacia honey, fresh seasonal clementines and many books..

* Recipe adapted from “crêpe à la semoule” de  Le Meilleur du MAroc, by Tess Maloss, Larousse.

I hope you have a festive Mardi Gras and that your fasting from tomorrow on stays motivated and on the right track… ahem ahem…!

à bientôt!

Ronelle


Cherry and bacon rolls..and happy Valentine!

I suppose everyone thinks “chocolate” when in February and especially around the 14th. I’m breaking the rules a bit here…these small cherry and bacon rolls are much more popular in our home under my loved ones than chocolate. In fact, I’m the only chocolate fan around here! So, when I make my people these little rolls, they know it says something about my love for them.

Very easy, so much so that it doesn’t require any recipe. I’ve had this “recipe” for as long as I can remember. It is sort of my “signature” snack and I have not yet come across a single person who sticks to only one or even two.

  1. Simply roll some sweet “cake cherries” as we used to call them in strips thin bacon. Secure with a toothpick
  2. Bake in a 200 degrees C (356 degr F) oven until the bacon is caramelized. In a preheated oven, this won’t take longer than 12-15 minutes.

Suggestions:

  • Use some prunes or apricots instead of cherries.
  • Use a leaner ham, like prosciutto or Serrano ham, cut in think slices and roll around the cherries. I’ve tried them all, but our favourite stays bacon strips.
  • The bacon rolls can be fried in a pan(without oil), but they are crispier and tastier(and healthier) baked in the oven.
  • Use simple toothpicks.. fancy ones will burn in the oven.
  • Eat warm from the oven.

…cherries in syrup, strips of bacon, toothpicks…

…May you all have  a cherry sweet Valentine’s day!..

…à bientôt

 from Chérie here in Corréze!


Tartiflette…and a Siberian blanket.

I’m not a very big potato fan, but with our extremely cold temperatures here in Europe and especially here at Coin Perdu in the barn, I take comfort in a hearty true mountain tartiflette. It does wonders for my cold body…and spirit! It is a favorite in my family and we make it different every time. It is a recipe that can be played around with, except for the cheese..that can NOT be replaced. It won’t be a tartiflette without that strong flavoured creamy cheese.

There aren’t any specific quantities for making a tartiflette…I can only tell you more or less what I do:

  1. Wash 4 -6 large potatoes and boil until almost tender.
  2. Rinse, leave to cool aside.
  3. Fry 2 large onions in a pan, add a handful of sliced champignons de Paris and a packet of bacon pieces. Season to you taste.
  4. When the potatoes have cooled down, remove the skin and cut into thin slices.
  5. Heat the oven to 200 degr. C.
  6. Layer the potatoes in an oven proof dish, alternating the potatoes and the onions.
  7. Cut a Reblochon cheese(or another soft cheese of your choice) through the middle so you have two thin rounds.  I used a Montagnard des Vosges. Place cut side down on the potatoes.
  8. If your dish looks too dry, add a drizzling of créme fraiche before placing the cheese on top.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust has become dry and brittle. Remove from the oven and remove the crust from the dish. Sprinkle with some paprika or “piment d’Espelette” and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top is nicely caramelized.
  10. Serve warm with some slices of smoked ham and a large fresh green salad on the side with a pungent vinaigrette.

Serves 4 as a meal.

Europe had been covered in a Siberian snow blanket for the past week or so…freezing cold, hyper dangerous, but spectacular! It is exceptionally cold here at Coin Perdu and I have a rough time keeping warm, seeing to fresh water for the horses with all the plumbing frozen rock solid. Warming up the barn to a comfortable temperature has also been a challenging task as of late and the only solution is to dress Inuit style, shuffling  around in multiple layers and moving with less agility than a polar bear. don’;t even mention femininity.. We were snowed in without snow chains for the car and couldn’t get up the hill. the small French country roads are not made for snow and tiny cars and evidence of  this is seen all around the countryside with cars in ditches off the roads.

..our/my home for now…

..bringing the horses in for the night, feeding them, carrying hay from the e other barn and water from the swimming pool..

…an unfinished home – what would I give to be all snug in my home..

…VERY c..c..c..c0ld visits..!!

…the boxwoods are still standing and showing off their beauty against a white background…

..first time snow for Mimolette…

…discovering this all-white-business…

..a white potager(vegetable garden) with the eiffel tower empty, a garden cloche looking quite pretty and last year’s cherry tomatoes…

Mésanges bleues(blue tits and a mésange charbonniére(Great tits) are all too playful in this cold. Between them and the red robins and the pies and the horses and the chickens and the cats and the rabbits and whoever else…; I just can’t keep up with feeding everybody!…

…just some prettiness…

Last, but not least: THANK YOU to everybody who has sent me emails and messages expressing concern for our staying here in the barn at Coin Perdu during this cold, wondering how we/I’m holding up and whether we/I’m surviving.  It is very much appreciated.!! I’m still here, even though I have to admit it is a bit tough lately.  Thank you for caring!

à bientôt

the polar bear(ess)!


Ambiance – a French name or two.

Some of our villages have some real tongue twister names here in the Correze countryside. Just because it is weekend, I’m leaving you with one or two to struggle with and see if you can figure out their pronunciation. When you’re done, put up your hand and I’ll pass on the advanced challenge..

I’m also a kind person, so to lift your spirit after all the hard work at practicing your French…a great movie with some great actors;  Julie Andrews, who will always be one of my favorites, Colin firth OF COURSE…now whose legs don’t go jello by the delicious sight of this cute man?? Mine certainly do! The only one, I have to say frankly I’m no fan of, is Jeanne Tripplehorn, but fortunately the rest of the cast makes up for her . Be warned, it is British humor and if you don’t like British… well, then rather go for Terminator!

..and on this French/British  note I wish you a very pleasant weekend, my dears…

à la prochaine fois

 from a freezing cold barn in Correze!


Sophie’s crêpes for la Chandeleur…and all kinds of french chateaux.

Today, 2 February is la Chandeleur( a  commemoration of the presentation  of the baby Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem and the purification process: (Luke 2:22 – When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[a]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”) . But mostly this day in France is devoted to eating crêpes.  I’m sharing a traditional Breton recipe, a favorite of our daughter’s  friend, who is Bretonne.

…crêpes de Sophie…

I feel a little like Paula Deen advocating this butter and sugar, so maybe I should warn...DANGER! One can’t have too many of these and in any case, we French only eat one or at the most, two crêpes(if they are small) at a time! Hope you enjoy your one crêpe.

…exploding sugar crystals”..(pumping candies)…

The basic recipe for the crêpes can be found here: A classice crêpe recipe and feasting the Mardi Gras way.

Suggestions for Sophie’s Bretonne crêpes.

  • When serving your crêpes, heat a pan with a small knob of butter.
  • Add one crêpe at a time, turn and warm/fry the other side.
  • Add a little sugar to the crêpe in the pan, allow it to melt, fold the crêpe in half and fold again so you end up with a small envelope.
  • Slide onto a plate and serve hot.
  • For fun I added some “exploding sugar crystals” just before serving. They will “explode” in your mouth, adding a surprise to each bite. I see they are called “pumping candies”…?Her is one address in France where they can be ordered from: Meilleur du chef.com

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When we hear the word château, we immediately dream up an image of Le Roi Louis XIV, the sun king of France. And yes, it is spot on. It is those beautiful country residences of royalties like le château de Versailles, or Fontainebleau, or those found in La vallee de la Loire, like the majestic Chambord and Chenenonceau, or Villandry and Uzé and others, more or less known.

…Fontainebleau…

…Chambord…

…Bourdaisiére…

…Chinon…

…Chaumont sur Loire…

 But then we also have the smaller French country house, also called  un château which might be inhabited by a noble Frenchman or not. Lately many châteaux here in France are bought up and restored by foreigners and run as bed and breakfasts or luxury hotels. And yes, stories rich in deception, love and intrigue still abound in all these châteaux, even the luxury château hotels…how can you silence the voice of a place?

…a locked up country château…

.. you want to hear the mysterious story of this small château…no, not now? OK next time…

…no entry, only mystery…

There is a third kind of château…my chickens are of noble heritage…owing not only one, but two châteaux of which I am the butler and the maid and housekeeper. Their fancy heated one in Tours is at the moment up for sale, and they are living in an old dilapidated château here at Coin Perdu which we inherited when we bought the property. But, as royalty runs deep in the veins and isn’t determined by  surroundings, my chickens reign with dignity and class from their ruins.

…the entrance to the chateau de Plumes…

…a dilapidated château de Plumes..

As soon as my vegetable patch is finished, the château de Plumes will move to the potager. I have the plans all set up for a cute and regal château de Plumes with turrets and all, still rustic, but worthy to be home to Their Royal Hignesses. As it is very cold here at night, I bring them into the barn at night,  in their baskets, where they sleep next to my bed and we all snore in sync and cozy warmth. At 5:30, when Camembert announces the day(how does he know it is day, when all is still spitting dark??), I turn on my other side and cover my ears.

…dignified royalty…

Enjoy your ONE crêpe!!! 

and until next time..

from your devoted servant, Ronelle


Herb and mango salad..and diet truths.

I think the time has come for some good ole healthy eating. I always that little “click” before I can step forward into action.. Maybe sniffing a delicious mango was that “click”… or was it the belt of my jeans that needed a different hole. Whatever. A click is a click and can’t be ignored! Let’s do it! This simple salad is chock full of vitamins and fiber and very few calories.

Recipe:

  1. Cleaned 1 mango and sliced it into juliennes.
  2. Cleaned 1 handful of mange tout and sliced it on the diagonal into juliennes.
  3. Wash 1 handful of mint leaves and Italian parsley leaves and break into a bowl.
  4. Cut 1 large spring onions on the diagonal into strips and add to the herb leaves. Add a handful of haricot mungo sprouts, the mango slices and the mange tout strips to the salad.  Add 1 lemon grass stick, harder outside removed and finely chopped to the salad.  Mix lightly with your fingers.
  5. Drizzle the salad with some olive oil, a bit of nuoc nam sauce, lemon juice, chopped fresh ginger and a  teaspoon of acacia honey anf season with salt and pepper.
  6. Finish off with a sprinkling of dry roasted almonds and lastly black sesame seeds.

Those who bask in summer at the moment, will enjoy the salad as is, but for us in the North, it is probably a little too cold.  So I enjoy it with a big pot of green tea. You can always drink a tisane(herbal/flower infusion). Along with the salad it will be great for digestion.

…walk, walk and walk..

…load up on fruits and vegetables…

…eat more  fish..

  • drink enough water every day…about 6 to 8 glasses.
  • eat smaller and varied portions.
  • have an extra light hand on the salt, sugars, butters and creams.
  • Cut off fat from your meat.
  • when and if choosing bread, then choose whole wheat…whole wheat rice, grains, lentils, wild rice, quinoa..
  • and….

…laugh…

And lastly something I received from a friend.  I don’t know where it originated and some of you might already know it…but here it is, hope it cracks you up like it did me..

“The Bathing Suit (by a middle-age woman unknown).

When I was a child in the 1950s, the bathing suit for the mature figure
was-boned, trussed and reinforced, not so much sewn as engineered.  They
were built to hold back and uplift, and they did a good job.

Today’s stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a
figure carved from a potato chip.

The mature woman has a choice, she can either go up front to the
maternity department and try on a floral suit with a skirt, coming away
looking like a hippopotamus that escaped from Disney’s Fantasia, or she
can wander around every run-of-the-mill department store trying to make
a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer range of fluorescent
rubber bands.

What choice did I have?  I wandered around, made my sensible choice and
entered the chamber of horrors known as the fitting room.  The first
thing I noticed was the extraord ina ry tensile strength of the stretch
material.
The
Lycra used in bathing costumes was developed, I believe, by NASA to
launch small rockets from a slingshot, which gives the added bonus that
if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you would be
protected from shark attacks.  Any shark taking a swipe at your passing
midriff would immediately suffer whiplash.

I fought my way into the bathing suit, but as I twanged the shoulder
strap in place I gasped in horror, my boobs had disappeared!

Eventually, I found one boob cowering under my left armpit.  It took a
while to find the other.  At last I located it flattened beside my
seventh rib.
The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups.  The mature
woman is meant to wear her boobs spread across her chest like a speed
bump.  I realigned my speed bump and lurched toward the mirror to take a
full view assessment.  The bathing suit fitted all right, but
unfortunately it only fitted those bits of me willing to stay inside it.
The rest of me oozed out rebelliously from top, bottom and sides.  I
looked like a lump of Playdoh wearing undersized cling wrap.

    As I tried to work out where all those extra bits had come from, the
prepubescent sales girl popped her head through the curtain, “Oh, there
you are,” she said, admiring the bathing suit.  I replied that I wasn’t
so sure and asked what else she had to show me.

    I tried on a cream crinkled one that made me look like a lump of
masking tape, and a floral two-piece that gave the appearance of an
oversized napkin in a serving ring.

I struggled into a pair of leopard-skin bathers with ragged frills and
came out looking like Tarzan’s Jane, pregnant with triplets and having a
rough day.

I tried on a black number with a midriff and looked like a jellyfish in
mourning.

I tried on a bright pink pair with such a high cut leg I thought I would
have to wax my eyebrows to wear them.

Finally, I found a suit that fitted, it was a two-piece affair with a
shorts-style bottom and a loose blouse-type top.  It was cheap,
comfortable, and bulge-friendly, so I bought it.

My ridiculous search had a successful outcome, I figured.

When I got it home, I found a label that read, “Material might become
transparent in water.”

So, if you happen to be on the beach or near any other body of water
this year and I’m there too, I’ll be the one in cut-off jeans and a
T-shirt!

You’d better be laughing or rolling on the floor by this time.  Life
isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain, with
or without a bathing suit!”

Until next time,

from the middle aged, dieting, but laughing diva.


Ambiance – a coffee corner

Some old silver finds from brocantes which I put together and use for coffee and tea…(one of those small trophies is mine, which I received for athletics years ago…you didn’t know that!)

..my tiny athletics trophy for a Hellebore flower..

…café crème teaspoons in a sugar bowl…

…demi tasse teaspoons in a trophy…

…coffee things in old brocante silver…

à bientôt!

from my coffee corner!


Ginger and lime tartlet…and crosses and crossroads.

A very popular tart/cake/sweetness in our home is this little lime tart…sometimes made with lemon. It has a tartness without being overwhelming sweet or soury, like lemon tarts can sometimes be. It reminds a little of a cheesecake…just perfect for those particular tastebuds.

Suggestions:

  • Use lemons instead of limes.
  • Use other biscuits of your choice for the base.
  • Serve cream on the side or decorate each tartlet with a whipped cram dollop.

*A recipe adapted from Atelier tartes, salé +sucré by Catherine Kluger.

Doesn’t fascination come in so many forms? One of them is the beautiful old crosses(las crotz) standing at the carrefours (crossroads) in France and especially here in the Limousin. I have to admire them every time I pass them, because somehow they grab my sentiments and transport me back to a time when life was so different from how we live it now. Standing in the heart of the countryside all over the Limousin, I can still feel their eternity, hear their stories, their silence, even despite the fact that I now break that calm of the past with the cruel blare of modern transport.

These beacons served once upon a time as road signs. Sometimes elaborate, but most of the time very simple and very often as plain as one huge exceptional stone. After Christianity la croix de chemin took on the shape of a real cross…in wood or carved from the best stone of the region, elaborate, in wrought iron, on pedestals, or freestanding.

Today these crosses are only reminders  of what was once a landmark for the peasants, roadsigns and parish, places of pilgrimage. They  were also objects of religion and devotion and sometimes commemoration of events, like La croix des femmes, which was created in commemoration on a corner where a blind horse caused the death of two women.

The photos were all taken just around the area, 30 minutes’ drive around our home, Coin Perdu in Correze.

These two crosses stand at the entrance of the village Beaulieu sur Dordogne and the other at the entrance to Puy d’Arnac. It was custom that a cross indicates the beginning and ending of a village.

At the crossroads the crosses also serve during snow periods in winter where the four roads came together. People gathered at these crossroads, mostly for religious ceremonies and blessing of the crop and the land And prayers. They were important landmarks, not only of the land, but also of the lives of the peasants.  It is not a strange thing then when we speak of standing at a crossroad in our lives. We should stop frequently and check if we still see our beacon/landmark. Can we still recognize it? Has our direction changed? Maybe it is necessary to change the course of our pilgrimage from time to time. A next landmark will always be there to guide us. Crossroads will always be there. They are timeless. Create your own las crotz. Let it guide you.  Let it tell your story.

…à bientôt…

Ronelle

All photos: Ronell van Wyk

Bibliography: Mémoires de la Corrèze,  Jean- Pierre Lacombe.


Salmon and spinach koulibiac..and feeling salmoned out!

I’ve been struggling with this koulibiac for two full days. The first one was far too dry, so I took on a second one.  Terrifying colors!  The third tasted complicated..and by that time, I couldn’t trust my judgement any more either! Tasting the same thing for two days…the same salmon, the same spinach, the same onion mix etc, truly numbs the taste buds. Finally I came back to the first effort with a few changes here and there. It is how it works with my painting as well. The first effort is always the most spontaneous, most honest rendering. Writing too. Those first thoughts should never be changed…only polished maybe, but never changed.

Just for interesting sake, here is the last effort..remember…the one with the complicated flavors?

Salmon and spinach koulibiac(pie)recipe

  1. Clean about 700g of fresh salmon fillet and poach for about 10 minutes or until flaky, but not dry and colorless. Leave to cool. Flake, remove all skin and the bones. Add lemon juice and  zest of 1 lemon, season to taste and mix lightly. Add alittle poaching liquid to the flaked salmon to prevent it from being dry.
  2. Sautée 2 small onions in olive oil. Add about 1 cup(250 ml) white arborio risotto rice, add salt, and 500 ml water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the rice is creamy. Stir in 1 TBSP of butter. Remove from the heat and leave aside(covered) to cool.
  3. Rinse and dry 2  large handfuls of fresh young spinach leaves. Chop roughly.
  4. Finely chop 2 large bunches fresh dill. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees C.
  5. Grease a bread tin with butter, (12cx24cm).
  6. Roll out 500g puff pastry, (pre ordered from your baker).Cut a rectangle large enough to line the bottom and sides of your bread tin(about 1/3 of the 500g). Keep in the fridge until needed along with the rest of the pastry.
  7. Fill the puff pastry base with some rice, cover with spinach leaves, the chopped dill, the flaked salmon, chopped dill again, some spinach leaves, and end with a layer of rice.
  8. Roll out the rest of the  puff pastry and cut a rectangle a little bigger than the bread mould. Place over the rice topping and wet the fingers to glue the sides of the top neatly together with the pastry base.
  9. Roll out the rest of the pastry into shapes of your desire and decorate the top as you wish. Replace in the fridge for an hour to get cold.
  10. Brush the top with 1 egg and make a hole in the top of the pastry with some baking paper to serve as a “chimney” and let heat and steam escape.
  11.  Bake for abut 40 minutes. Cover with a sheet of baking paper or brown paper if the top browns too dark.
  12. Bake a sauce of Bulgarian yogurt and crème fraiche, season with salt and pepper, a spoonful of mustard and lemon juice.
  13. Serve sliced with a fresh green salad and pungent vinaigrette.

Serves 8 people

Suggestions:

  • When poaching the salmon, add a carrot, an onion, lemon slices, dill and parsley stems to the poaching water to flavor the salmon. Strain afterwards and save the water for a soup.
  • The rice should be slightly sticky which will keep the rice layer together for better cutting of your koulibiac.
  • The success of puff pastry depends on as little handling as possible, working with cool hands, and being put very cold into a hot oven. The temperature can be lowered afterwards.
  • Don’t layer too much rice so you end up having a whole lot of rice and a lot of too little salmon! I tend to add too much rice to my layers..
  • Try whole wheat rice, wild rice or quinoa instead of white rice for a more healthy option.
  • Add a sprinkling of dried yellow/orange flower petals between the rice and spinach layer for a colorful version…zinnia petals, nasturtium, begonia, geraniums, marguerites, sunflowers, nasturtiums…
  • Have fun creating your own versions!

…doesn’t look too bad when goinginto the oven(remember that I’m at coin Perdu, baking in the wood burning stove…I’m sooo good!!)

…and the sortie out of the oven after 40 minutes doens’t look too bad either(except for some bad photography!)…

Why do I prefer the first effort?

*The flavors are clean and simple and along with the sauce it combines into perfect harmony. The biggest challenge of this effort is to make sure your koulibiac isn’t dry. So my tips would be to: add some poaching liquid to the salmon, make sure the rice is moist and sticky, but still white and plump(chicken stock tends to color your rice).

In the next two efforts?

*I added roasted fennel, combined it with the dill and added as an extra layer. The result was that the flavors were just too complicated and overpowering for the whole ensemble. Much like an electrical guitar playing in a symphonic orchestra…

*I also added chopped red onion to the salmon, which ended up with some ugly purply  spots between the delicate pink of the salmon.

*Oh, and don’t forget that wobbly silicone bread pan-business-thing which I’ve tried for the first time…cost me an arm and a leg! It “stretched” in the middle so the bread shape plonked out…you can see it in the first image. I was a very unhappy woman… In the second image I used my ole trusted normal bread tin and just look at the difference…a lovely square shape.

The lesson: Simple ALWAYS works! You may have to adapt a little here and change a  little there, but staying on the simple road is to be on the success road.

No sketch with the recipe today…too tired, too fed up with salmon, too heavy from all the tasting…a good chef alwasy tastes his food, they say. I did that and look where I am now…?

No story from my side either…aren’t you happy!? I have no first thoughts left after these two days.

And now please..

“Please don’t feed me no more salmon…

I could do with a little bit of famine…

My kitchen makes me ill…

for lack of clean… plates and place to chill..

and I am now ready for that thing they call in French…”régime”?

Oh man…how to lose these salubrious omega 3’…sss

So I can again be the lanky woman of my man’s dream…sss!”

a bientôt … from the gleaming omega omnivore!!



Ambiance 6/1/12

It is epiphany weekend and here in France we have  “les galettes des rois” tempting us around every corner! I almost gave in, but I held my ground firmly and walked past.

Safely here at home, I can now proudly boast about my steadfast self discipline! After a season of nibbling on all the festive foods, I want to get back on track with healthy eating. Doesn’t that sound quite boring? NOTE TO SELF: Keep the healthy eating exciting! Tall order, since I have become a bit lazy in the cooking department. Proof…I haven’t even baked a galette this this year! But that is no problem. I have links up this lazy sleeve!

First: My own galette des rois from last year…oops…not last year, but 2010!

How did a year pass without me knowing about it?

Ronelle’s (that’s me..)galette des rois

And here is Monique’s galette des rois:

and Chriesi’s galette des rois:

So this is what dictionary.com has to say about epiphany:

“epiphany

   [ih-pif-uh-nee]

noun, plural -nies.

  • 1. ( initial capital letter ) a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.
  • 2. an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity.
  • 3. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
  • 4. a literary work or section of a work presenting, usually symbolically, such a moment of revelation and insight.”

I hope your weekend will be filled with all the meanings of the word epiphany; eat a galette on 6 January, experience a pleasant appearance, receive that sudden insight we all need so desperately, and present your epiphany by means of a piece of work…maybe by baking a galette, even if only this once in your life?

Enjoy the weekend, stay warm in the north, stay out of the sun in the south,  eat “healthy”, and enjoy your epiphany.

“Epiphany”. I have to say it again.

“Epiphany“.

Such a nice word.

ciao ciao!

Epiphanic epiphanist.


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